Google Android 13 Review | PCMag

After several months of beta testing, Google Android 13 is publicly available for Pixel phone users. The operating system arrives earlier in 2022 than the typical Android fall release, and is an iterative update that builds on the foundations established with Android 12. convenient multitasking tools, cross-compatibility with Chromebook and Google tablets, per-app language customization, photo selection improvements, and expanded privacy and security features. Android 13 isn’t a breakthrough operating system like Android 12, but adding more polish to last year’s excellent feature set isn’t a bad thing.


How to get Android 13

As of this writing, Android 13 is only available on a limited number of phones: specifically Google’s Pixel line. A Google blog post(Opens in a new window) explains that the update is planned for other Android devices, such as Samsung Galaxy, Asus, Nokia phones, iQOO, Motorola, OnePlus, Realme, Sharp, Sony, vivo, Xiaomi and more, at some point later in 2022. If you have a Pixel phone, check if it’s eligible for the Android 13 update by going to Settings > System > System update. If you see Android 13 as a new version, you are ready to download and install the operating system.

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The process is relatively quick and painless, provided your phone is up to date with the latest software. Downloading and installing Android 13 took between 5 and 10 minutes on a test Pixel 4XL, and after a quick reboot the phone was ready to go.


Customize your home and lock screen

(Credit: PCMag)

Personalization and accessibility

Hardware You redefined personalization for Android users last year. This feature allows you to customize the user interface (UI) according to your wallpaper; it adopts a color scheme to match the background. Android 13 offers a greater selection of colors, giving you more control over the appearance of the home and lock screens. This feature has been extended to include the non-Google app color scheme, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, developers must register to allow this feature. So, in practice, many apps that we commonly use on our phones have not adopted this feature. LinkedIn pulls from your color selection, for example, but Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter don’t. This goes against the consistent look that Google envisions.

Multilingual Android users can set their preferred language for individual apps. This showed great promise during beta, but unfortunately falls a bit flat in the official Android 13 release. Only apps that support language selection can be customized in this way, and d ‘after our tests, this is quite limited. Of course, Google’s own apps, such as Calendar, Maps and News, use this feature, so there’s still a use for it despite its limited apps. For example, my dad uses English for most of his phone functions, but needs his directions in Spanish. The fact that Google’s excellent Map app works in Spanish is a game-changer for him.

Android 13 bundles support braille displays by default, which is a really good idea. This feature is intended for visually impaired people who cannot interact with or read a touch screen. Previously, visually impaired people had to download and use the BrailleBack app to get the most out of their phone. With Android 13, this can be used as soon as the update is installed.


Manage app permissions in Android 13

(Credit: PCMag)

Permissions, privacy and security

This update also brings several new permission and privacy improvements that make the operating system much less intrusive and much more comfortable to use. With Android 13, apps ask for permission before they can send you notifications. You no longer have to worry about a cacophony of reviews every time you open your device; these notifications can be disabled as soon as you install the application (or later in the Privacy menu of the settings).

Another noticeable privacy improvement comes in the form of the photo picker. Similar to the feature seen in iOS, you now have the option to select which specific images apps can access whenever you share something, rather than giving those apps permission to peek at the your entire library.

There’s one particularly important thing to note when it comes to security: Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a cannot be rolled back to older Android 12 once they’re updated to Android 13. Google did not specify(Opens in a new window) why it is, although it seems like a potential security issue with the Pixel 6 line. Either way, it’s a one-way street, so only download and install Android 13 if you are absolutely sure you want it.


Multitasking Bonanza

Google expands device functionality and cross-communication with each version of the operating system, as the Android architecture is supported by many smart devices. Your Android phone can easily serve as the control center of your smart device. With Android 13, Google is expanding multitasking functionality, which is especially useful when so many of us are returning to work or working from home. If you’re a Chromebook owner, you can broadcast messages from your phone directly to your Chromebook. You can send and receive messages without having to pick up your phone, as long as these devices are connected via Bluetooth.

Another useful feature is cross-device, copy-paste functionality. We’ve all been in situations where we want to quickly share content between our devices, whether it’s text, a screenshot, a photo, or a URL, without having to juggle multiple applications to save and send it. With Android 13, you can just tap and hold what you want to share, search for nearby Android devices, and just paste it to your other device.

Tablet owners enjoy improved productivity with the ability to open a second app from the taskbar and enjoy a split-screen view, making multitasking a whole lot easier. This feature may not be as robust as iPadOS 16’s impressive Stage Manager, which lets you juggle four apps at once. We’ve come a long way from a single app hogging the screen space of a tablet.


Multi-device sharing with Android 13.

(Credit: PCMag)

A few cool features in no particular order

  • Android 13 finally supports exFAT files, allowing Pixel devices to handle files larger than 4GB (an old storage limitation due to the use of the dated FAT32 format in previous devices). With 4K video and HD photos now commonplace, this is a major improvement.

  • Now you have a quick setting for the QR code scanner. It’s accessible through the notification shade (you pull it down from the top of the screen). A new QR code scanning option can be assigned to the notification shade, making it more convenient than navigating through Google Lens.

  • You can summon the wizard by swiping up from the lower corners of your screen.


Polished to a shine

Android 12 was a major update for smartphones when it dropped last year, so it’s hardly surprising that Google is expanding the elements of Android rather than aiming for another major overhaul in 2022. Android 13 looks like to a collection of refinements, but this is not a drawback to the operating system. The new customization features are exciting. The security and privacy changes are long overdue and a welcome improvement. The multitasking additions are a big boon to productivity, and we hope to see more of them in the future. Android 13 offers a tidy OS package that enhances your Pixel device without overwhelming you with new features and functions, but that’s all it really needed.

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